Also known as ‘Vegetable Sponge’, this amazing fruit can either be eaten or used to scrub your back – you can’t say that about many other plants! A member of the cucumber family, the luffa is widely grown in sub-tropical and tropical areas such as India, China, Vietnam and the Philippines for its edible fruit. A quick google search will bring up all kinds of recipes for its use in curries, soups, stir fries, snacks, pickles & chutneys. To be used as a vegetable it does need to be harvested small (20cm long or less). The flavour is similar to a summer squash.
Luffa sponges are composed of a complex network of fibre bundles connected to form a three dimensional, highly-porous network. Whilst most commonly used simply as a skin exfoliant, the outstanding mechanical properties make them worthy of much further investigation for their potential myriad uses as a sustainable material. To harvest your luffa for use as a sponge, simply let the fruit grow to their full size on the vine. Either harvest and keep them in a dry spot, or let them dry naturally on the vine. The skin will wither and then can be stripped off revealing the amazing fibre network, which remains as a whole dry sponge. Cut one end of to remove the seeds, which are easily shaken out. When using as a sponge, allow the luffa to dry out between uses to prevent build up of bacteria. After a few weeks’ use the luffas can be composted. The luffas can be cut into sections to be used one section at a time to make them go further.
Luffas are frost tender vines similar to melons. they require rich soil, plenty of moisture and a long growing season. They will benefit from being grown over a trellis or grown up strings like cucumbers and melons. Each vine will produce around 6 fruit.
Certified organic plant. 9cm pot